After two challenging pandemic years, the Whistler Children’s Chorus is gearing up for a big, well-funded, and uniquely Whistler show.
It all started when the group—which marked its 30th year in 2021—received a notice that the organization 100 Women Whistler had a last-minute opening for a funding pitch.
The only catch: the chorus had just two days to come up with an idea to present.
“One of their non-profit candidates had to drop out and we were next on the list,” says Jeanette Bruce, chorus director. “You just get up there, tell them who you are and what you’d be using the money for. I wasn’t available, so Alison [Hunter, former chorus director and current Whistler Singers director] went on our behalf. She immediately had this idea.”
The idea: to perform the 1984 original production Christmas at Rainbow written by the original Whistler Children’s Chorus director Molly Boyd and former Myrtle Philip School principal Bob Daly.
It chronicled the journey of Whistler pioneers Myrtle and Alex Philips’ journey to Alta Lake, which later became Whistler, and the prospectors, loggers, hunters, and trappers who helped them along the way. It all culminates in a Christmas celebration they had together.
“They wrote it because they had been hanging out with Myrtle [Philip] and having tea and her famous rum cake,” Hunter says, with a laugh. “It was straight from the horse’s mouth.”
Hunter presented the idea to the group—which includes 100 women meeting for an hour and each offering up $100 to a cause of their choosing—and watched as they voted for one of three worthy presentations.
“I actually said, ‘You’re kidding’ [when we were chosen] because I was so surprised and hugely grateful,” Hunter says. “I have run into women in this group now and they said the proposal captured their imagination. It really is about the community.”
Now with a budget of $11,000, the chorus is hard at work building the unique show—which will include a few updates from the original script, staged at Myrtle Philip Elementary School in 1990 and at Spring Creek Community School in 2012—in December.
“It’s been a whirlwind of a few days for us,” Bruce says. “It’s mind-blowing. The money is going to be going towards renting the theatre at the Maury Young Arts Centre—that detail is taken care of. In general, the financial element of worrying—do you have the funds to pull something off?—that was lifted off our shoulders, so the rest falls into place easier.”
First up: the chorus can focus on recruiting members.
“COVID was really hard for choir, everywhere,” Bruce says. “It was pretty clear that singing was a high-risk activity. So basically, in-person choir rehearsal and concerts were on pause for a good, long while.”
The group was able to host its annual Kinderchoir this year—“which felt miraculous,” Bruce says—and had 15 Kindergarten students attend in the spring. Almost all of them have now signed up to join the chorus this month.
“Our recruitment from kindergarten was almost too good,” she says, with a laugh. “We have 20 Grade 1 students. But we would love to have more kids from Grades 2 to 7. We need older kids to memorize more lines or do some solos. There’s a little bit more responsibility for older kids.”
Choir practice takes place every Tuesday—starting on Sept. 13—at the Whistler Public Library through December from 4 to 5 p.m.—with some extra rehearsals for kids with solos closer to the big show. It’s free for kids and open to anyone from Grade 1 to 7.
“It’s going to be a big undertaking for us,” Bruce says. “In a normal year we would do our own Christmas concert and we would typically do the Christmas Eve Carol Service at the Westin. This year, it will look a little different.”
Anyone who wants to sign up for the Whistler Children’s Chorus can email Bruce with their first and last names and what grade they’re starting this year at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone older who wants to join the Whistler Singers, meanwhile, can email email@example.com or simply check out a rehearsal on Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Myrtle Philip Community Centre.